Chronicle Election Coverage
Travis County Democrats retained their overwhelming presence at the courthouse, winning four out of five local judicial contests. But the Dems' victories stopped just short of the county line, with Republicans flexing greater muscle in the higher-court races.
Back home in Austin, one of two George W. Bush-appointed Republican incumbents at the district court level, Ernest Garcia, suffered a bruising defeat in a tight race, while the other, Julie Kocurek, held on to her post in a down-to-the-wire triumph. For Garcia, neither a $230,000 war chest nor the backing of U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm were enough to keep his place on the 126th District Court. His opponent, longtime Austin lawyer Darlene Byrne, won by less than a third of a percentage point, with an 800-vote margin in her favor. Byrne ran a well-organized campaign that, like other local Democratic campaigns, capitalized on fears that Austin's quality of life would be threatened by a Republican victory. Additionally, some lawyers had started complaining openly about Garcia showing up at law offices near the courthouse, armed with yard signs bearing his name.
As for Kocurek, the 390th District Court incumbent maintained her lead over Democratic opponent Karrie Key throughout the evening, although at times the returns showed the rivals nearly neck and neck. Ultimately, Kocurek -- who is married to the grandson of longtime civic leader Willie Kocurek and enjoyed strong bipartisan support going into the race -- won just over 51% of the vote.
In other races, Democrat Scott Jenkins surprised no one with his 59% victory over perennial Republican candidate John Drolla for the 53rd District Court seat; incumbent Gisela Triana, the Democratic judge in County Court-at-Law No. 5, handily overpowered her GOP rival with about 59% of the vote; and incumbent Margaret Cooper outdrew Demetri Anastasiadis with a 61% take to his 39% to retain her seat on the 353rd District Court bench.
Republicans held greater sway in the higher-court contests. While Woodie Jones won Travis County in his re-election bid for the Austin-based Third Court of Appeals, the Austinite lost his longtime seat to David Puryear, an assistant attorney general who took more than 52% of the vote districtwide.
And in statewide races, Criminal Appeals Court Judge Sharon Keller, the Republican who came under fire for her hard-line stance in the death penalty case of Roy Wayne Criner, easily trounced Democrat Bill Vance with more than 57% of the vote. She led a GOP sweep of three Supreme Court races, three Court of Criminal Appeals races, two Railroad Commissioner races, and the U.S. Senate seat -- extending the GOP streak to 33 races in a row, dating back to 1996.
Third Court of Appeals Place 1
R: David Puryear 51.7% (42.5% in Travis Co.)
D: Woodie Jones 48.3% (57.5% in Travis Co.)
53rd District Judge
D: Scott Jenkins 59.0%
R: John Drolla 41.0%
126th District Judge
D: Darlene Byrne 50.1%
R: Ernest C. Garcia 49.9%
353rd District Judge
D: Margaret Cooper 61.4%
R: Demetri Anastasiadis 38.6%
390th District Judge
R: Julie Kocurek 51.9%
D: Karrie Key 48.1%